Published on Sunday 20 April 2014 21:54
Ten Second Review
NNissan's Qashqai spent quite a long time trading on its clever leadership in the Crossover market. But with an army of new rivals springing up, other virtues must be brought to the fore. Hence Nissan's introduction of a highly specified '360' mid-range model to the line-up, offered in both five and seven-seater form. It's key feature is the neat Nissan Connect infotainment set-up with 360 degrees Around View Monitor system, which integrates satnav with Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity along with four cameras to give a 'helicopter view' when parking.
Crossovers have successfully bridged the gap between family hatchbacks and compact SUVs. Think of a family-sized example of one of these and you tend to think if Nissan's Qashqai. It mostly sells in mid-range form, a level at which the brand has chosen to introduce the highly specified '360' trim we look at here.
At this level, you don't expect to find features like a surround view camera system, sat nav, part-leather trim and a panoramic roof. But then the Qashqai has always been a car that deals in the unexpected.
There's a wide choice of engines available to Qashqai 360 customers with three diesels and two petrol powerplants to consider. Things start off with a 1.6-litre 117PS petrol unit with the eco-friendly option of stop-start and move up through 110PS 1.5 dCi diesel, 130PS 1.6 dCi diesel and 140PS 2.0-litre petrol units before topping-out with the auto-only 150PS 2.0-litre dCi diesel. Nissan hasn't skimped when it comes to transmission choices either, the Qashqai being supplied with five and six-speed manual boxes, a six-speed auto option and even an advanced Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT).
The Qashqai drives in an assured manner on the road and feels more like a conventional family hatchback than a 4x4 with its supple suspension and absence of body roll. The latest cars have revised suspension settings to improve things further in this area and refinement that's boosted by multi-layer insulation in the front bulkhead and a special soundproof windscreen.
The ALL-MODE 4x4 system is available on the 2.0-litre vehicles, with the others sending drive to the front wheels only. This is an electronic system which automatically engages four-wheel drive the moment a loss of traction is detected. It offers more safety and security in extreme weather on-road. Nissan makes no bones of the fact that the Qashqai is anything but an off-roader, citing its lack of ground clearance. What precludes it from tackling rutted tracks makes it a better car on the blacktop, the hunkered down centre of gravity giving the Nissan its nimble feel.
Design and Build
There are two Qashqai bodystyle choices, the standard model and a Qashqai+2 seven-seater variant. In the +2, everything behind the windscreen pillars is different. The wheelbase stretches by 135mm and the overall length rises by 211mm to 4,526mm. To make sure that rear seat occupants don't feel too hemmed in, the roof line is reprofiled as well, adding 38mm to the car's height.
The middle row of seats splits 40/40/40 and the backrest reclines to no fewer than nine adjustment positions. When the seats are folded down, there's a massive 500 litres of stowage space, and the rear hatch is both wider and has a lower loading sill than the standard Qashqai model.
Market and Model
The mid-range '360' spec sits between entry-level Acenta and top-line Tekna Qashai trim levels, with prices for Qashqai 360 models starting from the £20,000 mark. There's a premium of just over £1,100 for the seven-seater '+2' variant and prices range up to around £27,000.
As for equipment, the '360' package features Nissan's Connect with 360 degrees Around View Monitor system, which integrates satnav with Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity along with four cameras to give a 'helicopter view' when parking. Standard kit also includes 18-inch 'Onyx' alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and a panoramic roof. Plus you get part-leather trim with double white stitching, a gloss black gearlever surround, gloss black door handles and a leather armrest.
Gloss black roof rails, door mirrors and '360' badges mark out the exterior. In addition, a new pearlescent paint - Storm White - has been added to the range, providing the perfect contrast to the 360's gloss black highlights. Storm White is available for the same price as metallic paint - at £500 extra.
Cost of Ownership
All Qashqai engines now conform to Euro V emissions regulations and Nissan has introduced a fashionable stop-start system as an option, which on the 1.6-litre petrol model reduces fuel consumption by 3% and emissions to as little as 139g/km. The 1.5-litre diesel returns a 54.3mpg combined economy and emissions of 137g/km, but that's trumped by the 130PS 1.6-litre dCi diesel which, thanks to a standard Stop/Start system, returns 62.8mpg and 119g/km of CO2 in 2WD form. Go for the 1.6-litre petrol and the figures are 45.6mpg and 144g/km.
Further up the engine range, the kind of returns owners can expect will depend on their choice of 2WD of 4WD transmissions. With the heavier 4x4 cars, economy is one or two mpg worse, while the automatic gearbox offered with the 2.0-litre diesel blunts returns by another couple of miles in the gallon. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is slightly more efficient if specified with its CVT automatic 'box.
With mid-range Qashqai models out-stripping the entire sales volumes of rivals like Hyundai's ix35 and Kia's Sportage, it's clearly important for Nissan to get the spec right at this level. And the '360' package with its clever camera system certainly looks tempting.
The idea is to democratise luxury in this family crossover model - to make you feel special with one in your driveway. And with one of these outside your front door, you may well feel very much like that.
This Nissan's leadership in the crossver market may have been eroded, but there's plenty of life left in it yet.